When Anna Razhova found out that actor Chadwick Boseman passed away after secretly battling late stage colon cancer, she had to go back to his most famous movie, “Black Panther,” to search for signs of the illness.
“Every time he moved or did a stunt, I found myself studying it,” Razhova, 35, told The Post. “I think at that point, he was very sick.”
Boseman’s stamina seemed to defy science. Razhova knew this because she was fighting the same disease. In Febuary 2018 — just three months after giving birth to her daughter Alexa Brooklyn — she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer and given just one to two years with treatment.
Like Boseman, even though Razhova looks healthy and vibrant, she’s been fighting for her life.
“Sometimes it feels like I need to wear a sign that says, ‘I’m fighting cancer, please be kind,’ ” she said. “Cancer is my whole life. I am unable to date or have all of these other things that other people can do.”
When she got her diagnosis, the brand-new mother had to immediately uproot her life in Chicago and quit her job in human resources. She moved to Connecticut to be near her family and started aggressive medical interventions, including chemotherapy and having her colon removed.
“There is no way I could have been able to learn to be a mom and fight colon cancer at the same time,” said Razhova, whose father succumbed to the disease in his early 40s. “I missed out on a lot of firsts with my daughter because I was so medicated.”
Razhova, who has defied the odds, is now on an experimental drug called Stivarga and also doing a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering. She is on disability but calls being on a clinical trial and constantly seeking, researching and trying innovative treatments a “full-time job.”
Every day is a fight for some level of normalcy for the Russian-born Razhova. And it’s been particularly hard since Boseman passed away.
“Even though I didn’t know Chadwick, I had a very rough weekend. To everyone in the colorectal cancer community, especially if you are still fighting, his death is emotional.”
Razhova marveled over how productive Boseman had been, leaving nary a clue that he had a serious illness. While many put their lives on hold, the celebrated actor made seven movies, including his most iconic “Black Panther,” as he battled colon cancer. “To know he was putting on a brave face and didn’t let anyone know or let it show, is just amazing.”
As Razhova confronts her cancer, she draws inspiration from her young daughter, who is almost 3.
“If I didn’t have my daughter, I wouldn’t be giving this extra push,” she said. “I am fighting every day. My goal is to make sure my daughter remembers who I am. That she remembers my voice and not just me as a lady in a picture.”
In a similar way, she can see how the fight for a legacy could have pushed Boseman through countless grueling scenes — a physical feat he only hinted at once in an eerie interview that recently resurfaced.
“I have to think Chadwick’s career was his baby, and he was doing it because he wanted to be remembered and to show that you can do anything. That’s what made him a real life superhero.”
Razhova, like Boseman, is also part of a growing population of colon cancer patients under age of 50, the age that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended patients start screening for the disease. She is on the advisory board of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s Never Too Young campaign, and considers advocacy for early screenings a calling.
She knows a colonoscopy could have changed the course of her own life. Razhova learned she had Familial adenomatous polyposis, or FAP, a rare genetic mutation that causes polyps at a young age. If left untreated, they can become malignant. Doctors believe Razhova started developing polyps as young as 8 years old. She also had thyroid cancer at 21, and wished she had pushed for genetic screening then.
“My life could have been saved,” she said, adding that she hopes Boseman’s death will push more young people for screening. “No one should go through this and I want people to advocate for themselves. It’s important that we speak about this.”
New York Post
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